Dear Diary... July 2012

Tuesday 31st July - Football on the Tyne

A reasonably early start for me today as I was heading on the 0826 train out of Manchester and via Leeds, York and Durham and up to Newcastle to see two of the final women's group matches. It was the only ground hosting two games, so at least you'd get more value for your money that way, and with both of them possibly having an effect on each of the groups that it was part of, it did feel like it was going to be a good day. It was good to have the customary bacon roll and coffee from Bread Box before setting off on the train, and it was reliably on time as Transpennine Express usually are.

I had a bit of time spare so I walked along Grainger Street and towards Grey's Monument, where a big screen had been installed and it meant that I could keep an eye on the equestrian three day eventing going on, before I retired to a Costa close to one of the theatres and sat upstairs with a coffee, very civilised and relaxed. I also had time to explore the Eldon Square shopping centre with plenty of big name stores in there, and it all looked like a normal shopping day. As you walk out of the centre and up the road, you soon realise how close Newcastle United's ground St James' Park actually is to the city and how elevated from the street the ground is.

I had tickets for the Gallowgate End of the ground, where the diehards normally are, and having got through security and found my seat, I was right by the right hand corner flag as you look on telly, but that was a decent view and not bad for the £20 I paid for it. Plenty of Canadian and Swedish fans were in the smallest stand that ran along the touchline and were cheering their teams in advance of the opening game of two, and sensibly all of the top tiers were closed to try and enhance the atmosphere a bit. There were around 13,000 in all, not brilliant but considering that Great Britain weren't playing, not the worst ever.

Sweden v Canada was first up then, and Sweden scored two goals in two minutes early on and that was a shock to the Canadian system. They woke up though and were the better side in the first half, going close with various chances before Melissa Tancredi finished well from a good cross just before half time and at only 2-1 down, a draw would most likely be good enough for them to qualify as a best third-placed side, so plenty of incentive for them to get on with the job second half.

And get on they did. Sweden did counter attack occasionally but didn't trouble the Canadian defence that much, and the perseverance from their team reaped their rewards with a few minutes left when a good cross was met with a powerful header from Tancredi (her fourth goal of the tournament) and it was 2-2. The Canadian coach was actually from Newcastle and so being on home turf and seeing his team do so well was a rather positive thing, and at 2-2 the Canadians saluted their fans at the end for cheering them through - they'll now face Great Britain in the quarter finals on Friday.

Most of the fans left before the France v Colombia game - maybe they didn't realise that you actually got two games for the price of one? Either way I'd say there were less than 3,000 there for the second match. France scored an early goal and should have scored many more during the half had it not been for the heroics of the Colombian keeper Sandra. Yes, Sandra. I found out later that all the Colombians had their first names on their shirts (hence Ingrid and Melissa as well) but even so, it reminded me of the Brazilian player Alan who played for Salzburg against Man City in the Europa League and got a very warm bit of banter from the City fans.

France held on to win 1-0 and so qualify from their group second behind the USA who won the group easily in the end. It was a short walk back to Newcastle train station from St James' Park, and overall it had been a good entertaining day's football, with plenty to enjoy and lots of skills on display - the first game particularly (although I do admire Gaetane Thieny on the French team, she really did play well). Tune of the day is Mark Knopfler's "Theme From Local Hero" which Newcastle United run out to, and I just kept thinking of that during the day whilst watching the game.

The train journey back to Manchester was nice and relaxed: on East Coast first all the way to York and then change there for a short while and get the Transpennine Express train back into Manchester, arriving back just after 11pm meaning a short trip home and therefore off to bed. It had been a good day all round and with more football tomorrow, it meant that I'd be going to Olympic events on five separate days on the trot - which I can't really argue with one bit.

Monday 30th July - Centre Court Tennis

I've waited all my life to go to Centre Court at Wimbledon to see some tennis being played there, and when I saw that there were tickets for the Olympic tournament up for grabs, the fact that I managed to grab one was rather good to say the least. Granted it was category A which meant a hefty £85 price tag, but checking the seating plan showed that the seat would be an excellent view and also one which meant that even if the weather turned bad, I'd be under cover from the roof but then also from the retractable roof as well, so definitely well worth it.

I was off on the train really early from Manchester Piccadilly - 0555 to be exact, and got to Crewe to get the 0653 to London Euston which got in at 0833. Doing it this way meant it was around £20 cheaper on the train and also got me there at a sensible hour. The train journey was the usual reliable Virgin journey - quick and painless and got me there on time. Once I got to Euston I thought of the different route to Southfields station for the Wimbledon courts - take the Circle or Hammersmith and City line to Edgware Road, and get the District Line there to Southfields. It wasn't as busy as I thought and I got there easily.

It was a nice walk from the station down to Wimbledon itself and it certainly wasn't too bad - stopped off in Sainsbury's local for a meal deal lunch along the way (remembering to drink the water before I got to Wimbledon so I could use the empty bottle to refill) and after getting through security and showing my ticket, I walked around the courts and marvelled at the fact I was actually there. I saw the Court 18 plaque which commemorated the match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, and Henman Hill - which is a lot smaller than that on the television it has to be said!

There were also two presenters warming the crowd up before play: Gethin Jones, former Blue Peter presenter, and Cara Robinson. Cara had a blue dress on with Olympic rings on it which looked very cool - and well worth admiring as she was in amongst the crowd seeing the masses and how they were enjoying their Olympic experience. I certainly was to say the least, and had a good look around some of the shops, spotted some players on the practice courts, and even the sculpture of the mascot Wenlock complete with the tennis racket, all good stuff.

I took my seat in Block 207 in Centre Court, and what a view I had! When you see Wimbledon on the telly, the cameras have a view of the court and Royal Box opposite. I ahd the same sort of view but a little higher so that the cameras weren't in the way, and an aisle seat too so I could stretch the legs in between points if need be. With four games scheduled it was going to be a long and rewarding day's tennis, and one I was looking forward to massively and whettted the appetite for being at Wimbledon properly one day.

First up was the women's number 1 seed Victoria Azarenka against Irina-Camelia Begu, and I thought after the first set was 6-1 to Azarenka that it'd be over quickly. However Begu dug in and worked hard to win the second set, with Azarenka arguing with the umpire after a successful challenge from Begu and awarding the point to her when really it might have been best replayed. Azarenka took off her outer jacket and stuck with the red and green Belarus colours and sauntered through the final set to win in the end and that was a good start.

Centre Court filled up for the next match, and no wonder as it was world number 1 and number 1 seed, the legend that is Roger Federer. He was playing Julien Benneteau of France and made pretty light work overall winning in straight sets, working hard to win the crucial points at the right time, breaking the serve and getting on with things rather well, it has to be said. He looked cool and calm and collected and was more than capable of upping the game if need be. The crowd cheered him on and as the end of the match approached you could get an idea of what it'd actually be like when the proper Wimbledon is on.

Third match was Juan Martin del Potro v Andreas Seppi and that was closer than the straight sets would have shown, and after that I went to get some strawberries and cream. Well, I was at Wimbledon, so why the hell not? And lastly was an epic three setter between Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer. After some lengthy rallies Woziniacki took the first set, but the second had plenty of fight from Wickmayer to level it. It was one crucial game in the final set that was twenty minutes plus and lots of deuces, which Wozniacki won, which effectively helped her win.

Even though the crowd was a little sparse during the final match, it was a cracking day's entertainment as I left at 8.20pm. The helpful volunteers were directing everyone to Wimbledon station as the District Line tube had been suspended due to a fatality on the line. However I got to the station, straight on a train to Waterloo and from there headed back via the bus to Euston, where I'd manage to get a bite to eat and a coffee before heading back on the 2140 train back to Piccadilly and on one of the last buses home - tired maybe but I'd had a wonderful day of it all. Tune of the day - no contest - "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield, the BBC's Wimbledon theme no less.

Sunday 29th July - Brazilian Brilliance

It was off to Old Trafford for me and my friend today, as we were going to see two games of football in the men's tournament, with a 12 noon start. It was nice and easy to get up and head to Old Trafford and relaxed in the stadium before the game. It didn't look completely full for the first game of the day (Egypt v New Zealand) but knew that later on Brazil v Belarus might be a bit busier, as we spotted some Brazil fans outside the ground who were there making an atmosphere and gearing up for their kick off at 3pm. Maybe they didn't realise that their tickets were valid for the whole session and both matches?

We kept an eye on the women's cycling road race on the big screens before taking out places for the two matches, and both of them were very entertaining indeed. Egypt v New Zealand ended 1-1 but how it was only that scoreline I have no idea. New Zealand took a shock early lead only for Egypt to equalise before half time, and realisticall they needed to win to have the best chance of progressing. It was end to end stuff during the second half as both sides pressed for a winner but none was forthcoming, a real shame to be honest as I suspected that they both needed a win to progress.

The atmosphere built up very nicely though for the second game of the day, Brazil v Belarus. Belarus were no pushovers and had beaten New Zealand 1-0 to ensure that they were in a good position before this game, and Brazil knew a win would effectively qualify them with a game to spare. They were pretty narked through when Belarus scored pretty early on and dared to go in front, a cool finish from a cross and one that had the Brazilians wondering what had hit them.

It did wake them up though and roared on by plenty of fans all around the ground (around 66,000 inside Old Trafford, very not bad methinks) it was time for Brazil to turn it on, and turn it on they did. After a well worked run down the left from Neymar, Alexander Pato scored the equaliser from close range right in front of us, and from then on it was all Brazil. At half time we wondered if scoring before the break was the turning point, and in the second half we got our answer - yes it was.

Brazil surged forward and it wasn't a case of if they were going to score, but when. The crowning moment came mid way through the second half as Neymar curled a free kick round the Belarus wall and into the left hand corner for 2-1 and it was a really well taken finish, it has to be said. The Brazil fans near us went mental and rightly so, and late on Neymar was involved and set up Oscar to tuck it past the Belarus keeper for 3-1, a well deserved victory which left the scores of fans rather happy to say the least, and we were very pleased and proud to be there to see it.

We headed home and later that evening I went out for tea with The Love In My Heart, treating her to a meal in the Elizabethan. The steak pie was on top form and that was lovely, as was the drink in Kro down the road afterwards as we chatted and caught up together, with lots of chat and lots of relaxed feeling after a very good two days or so. Tune of the day has to be "Feeling Good" by Muse which played whilst in Kro and certainly sums up my mode of feeling right now. It was lovely to see The Love as well, and it was good to relax a bit before another day of Olympic competition tomorrow.

Saturday 28th July - Life's a Beach

After a late night watching the opening ceremony, it was time for me to get up around 6am and get myself ready for the day as I was heading to London alone to see the afternoon session of beach volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. The Love had declined and so I'd got the ticket very late on (I picked it up on Thursday) and so it also meant no Games Travelcard either. Thankfully though it was only on The Mall so that meant that in theory I could either take the bus or cycle to Trafalgar Square and take the short walk there. The train arrived in Euston on time at the nice and early time of 0938 and with Barclays Cycle Hire key in hand, I hired a bicycle.

It was the right decision. I ended up on the quieter streets within the congestion charging zone and made my way towards part of Great Portland Street and from there cycled down it to Oxford Circus, which considering it was almost 10am was pretty quiet. It was then down Regent Street and past Hamley's toy shop where the assistant and the Hamleys teddy waved as I was coming past. I was also overtaking the buses along the way and after a quick downhill run down Haymarket, I was at Pall Mall and able to drop off the bike there, result. And much quicker too.

I then had some time spare so I headed to the National Portrait Gallery which proved to be a good move, I had plenty of inspiration looking at some excellent portraits of the Olympic athletes and how their mood was captured brilliantly. I felt inspired massively and it showed that when it comes to art, we really do do a good job when the time allows. It was also nice to take a walk along The Strand, look in the branch of London Camera Exchange there and admire the many different lenses on show, and then back to Trafalgar Square where a coffee in Costa overlooking the square was a good decision.

I grabbed a meal deal from Tesco, thus saving costs on the food, and drank the water and ate the food before entering the afternoon session. You were allowed to take an empty water bottle to top up inside the venue, so I thought it best to do that and it worked pretty well. You could see down the other end of The Mall where the cycling road race would finish later and I suspected that if Great Britain won, you'd probably hear the cheers from where we were. I got to the entrance for the beach volleyball in good time and after an initial queue, it was in through security relatively easily with army staff sorting you out, and then show your ticket to get in. A doddle and efficient too.

Part of St James' Park was used as the holding area with sculptures made of sand including the mascot Wenlock, and that was pretty good. Soon enough the morning session had emptied and the crowds were allowed in for the afternoon session, and that worked efficiently. I got to my seat, and it was four rows from the very top in Row 47. I couldn't complain though as it was a mere £20 for a ticket and for that I'd get to see four first round matches of beach volleyball, and judging by everyone sat around me, they thought it was a good idea too.

Having never seen beach volleyball live, I had no idea what to expect, but I have to say that I'll be back for more if I can. Between each point music would play to get the crowd and players going, and even during the technical timeouts they had some of the dancers running around the stands to Boots Randolph's "Yakety Sax" otherwise known as the Benny Hill show theme. They did run into one of the volunteer ushers though knocking her pretty hard to the ground, so they were a bit more chilled out in future breaks.

I saw four matches, and Great Britain lost to Canada's men in the third and although the first set was close, Canada ran away with it in the second. Not as much as Brazil's women in the final game who comprehensively thrashed Mauritius in no time at all. The closest game was the second game on: Austria v Czech Republic women - and two Austrian fans with their flag behind me were getting behind their team. Lots of great music and indeed some great shots, hitting the ball hard and with some diving stops, really made for a wonderful occasion and atmosphere overall.

Tune of the day is Queen's "We Will Rock You" as often between points the opening clapping and drum riff would be played and everyone would stamp along and clap and get the players pumped up, and it helped massively when they had a front woman and man on who were just as pumped up and really wanted everyone to join in, massive "Ole!" every time the little trumpet tune was being played, and even a mass participation Mexican wave on occasion too. It was thoroughly fun to be at and I have to say I more than got my money's worth.

I left The Mall and headed back to Charing Cross where a Barclays Cycle Hire station was, and hired the bike, cycled back along The Strand to Aldwych and then up along Southampton Row and past Russell Square straight to Euston, where after depositing the bike I walked round the corner to The Crown and Anchor for a well earned bite to eat, and their haddock with chips was wonderful, as was the blonde real ale on too. It was nice to sit in there, relax with free wifi so I could keep my eye on the results, and see the swimming live on the big screen. Perfect!

It was soon time to head back on the train though and was getting the 2020 train back to Manchester, which arrived back on time just before 2250, and it was good to think of the wonderful day I'd had - the first of five days where I'd be seeing Olympic competition, and I couldn't argue with that one little bit. I really wanted so much to be in London for an Olympic event like that and really felt part of it massively. The Games has arrived and I can very proudly say that "I was there" - something I can tell my younger family relations in years to come.

Friday 27th July - Opening Ceremony

The Love In My Heart came over to my place and we spent a very enjoyable evening in together with the main focus being the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which I was going to have on in BBC One HD and with the surround rig on full so that we could get a real feeling of being there. Up till the day before you could have got a ticket for it, but it would have been a mere £1,600 - a bit too much to pay to be honest when you consider you can do a whole day's hospitality at the Monaco Grand Prix for much less - just to give you a comparison.

However, we were both interested to see how it would pan out, and even before the official ceremony got underway, the audience had some pre-show entertainment with the likes of Frank Turner belting out some songs for the masses on the "Glastonbury Tor" stage of the venue, which looked really good, as did all the fields with cricketers, sheep (real sheep too) and all that sort of thing. It was going to be something special but I reckoned someting uniquely British as well, which is what we wanted to see.

It was so much of a blur watching the ceremony, but the choir singing Jerusalem had me really feeling inspired, and then as the "dark satanic mills" gave way to the Industrial Revolution and a history of the country through time, that worked really well, with some pounding drums and some more excellent stage craft, gradually moving almost all of the temporary grass away to leave a rather more solid field of play, meaning plenty of dance, entertainment and overall quirkiness along the way. We had the film tributes including Danny Boyle's very own "Trainspotting" with Underworld's "Born Slippy" on at full blast, and rightly so in my view.

One notable scene or two was Daniel Craig as James Bond heading to Buckingham Palace and the Queen herself was there - how they managed that I don't know, but rather good. He then escorted her to a helicopter where they'd be in the video sequence heading to the stadium, of course she wasn't in the chopper really, but the video sequence ended and there she was in the stadium. The London Symphony Orchestra played Vangelis' iconic "Chariots of Fire" but with a twist, Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean playing the solo synth notes and then panning to a clip of him running on the beach with the rest of the cast but falling behind. I know a lot of European countries like Mr Bean, so I can see why it was included.

I really liked it how the organisers got all the eras of music involved in one scene, with a house in the middle which projected images of the artists, starting from the 1960s onwards, so we had The Kinks, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd etc but then also had the likes of New Order, Happy Mondays later on too, a real wide ranging spectrum which included Dizzee Rascal belting out "Bonkers" live which actually really worked - kudos to him for really nailing it and getting the audience involved. I liked how the projections of the videos were on the house too, so of course for Queen it was the iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody" video, just had to be done.

Of course the athletes came out and that took its usual long time, but the BBC were brilliant and actually had done their research on the athletes, with Huw Edwards, Hazel Irvine and Trevor Nelson taking you through it. They were informative and really were relaxed too, so it came across perfectly, with a real feel of each nation getting their air time and the torch bearers mentioned for each country too. The outfits were sometimes fashion critiqued but always a with a knowledgable nod about the country they represented, which was fair enough in my view.

As all the nations came out, of course it meant that the host nation Great Britain would come out last, and so they did, to David Bowie's "Heroes". Absolutely perfect choice of tune and really did get the emotions stirring inside me - awesome stuff. Tune of the day of course, and they could all be heroes, just for one day, if they put their mind to it, and as they made their way to the centre of the stage, the build up continued with some Arctic Monkeys playing including a version of "Come Together" with cyclists and doves' wings, excellent.

Finally, the torch, and a brilliant move. David Beckham drove the boat that had a torch bearer on and headed along the river in the Olympic Park, where Sir Steve Redgrave carried it into the stadium. But he didn't light it, oh no. He passed the torch to seven nominated young athletes who ran around the stadium and then lit the cauldron, which was made up of each one of two hundred plus pots that had been carried by each nation in their entrance to the games, and the cauldron because of it looked architecturally beautiful too. Pink Floyd's final track to "The Dark Side of the Moon" album played, and for me - the ceremony should have ended right there.

But oh no, we get Paul McCartney belting out a couple of numbers including a mass particpation of "Hey Jude" during the end, that made me cringe to be honest. I mean, he's done enough events this year without gatecrashing this one to be honest. It meant that the ceremony didn't close till around a quarter to one which made me wonder how everyone in the stadium was actually going to get home on transport, notably as the tube stops around 1am at weekends and I doubt if the Javelin trains were running. Nonetheless a great ceremony and Danny Boyle deserved shed loads of credit for it.

Thursday 26th July - Football at Old Trafford

My friend and I were taking in a fair few of the football games at Old Trafford for the Olympic football tournament, and so I had the half day off work so I could head to my friend's house, head to the game in good time for the kick off, and soak up the atmosphere of both matches. The Great Britain team were on in the second of two games to be played, so meaning that if you couldn't get time off work, you would still have time to get to Old Trafford to watch it all, which made some sense to me. This did mean though that those travelling further away might have transport issues, bit swings and roundabouts there.

I got to my friend's place and we headed to Sale Metrolink station to park the car, but the police had cordoned off the area close to the station, so a bit of quick thinking later and we'd parked up at Brooklands instead, and managed to get the tram with no issues straight to Old Trafford station, passed the cricket ground as you do and then all the way down to the stand. The entrance for my friend and I was easy to find and when we got there, the view of the stadium was pretty good - albeit behind some meshed fencing to stop supporters near us getting hit with the ball. This wasn't removed either which did kind of get a little annoying at times.

So first up with all the atmosphere building nicely was Uruguay v United Arab Emirates. A lot of Manchester United fans were at their home ground and so every time Liverpool's Luis Suarez got the ball, it was boos everywhere. Considering his actions last season, it was kind of understandable but a bit out of place for the Olympics I reckoned. Everyone else got behind the UAE team and they were playing some good stuff, and when they scored the crowd went mental for them - a very well taken finish too. The fans were even chanting "U! A! E!" in the style of that "USA" chant that you normally hear during the Games at some point.

The honeymoon didn't last though and just before half time a free kick from Gastón Ramirez was the equaliser, and Suarez himself helped set up the winner early in the second half. UAE had a great chance near the end to make it 2-2 but dragged the shot wide, but they did look pretty useful and to be honest they were well worth seeing early on. The stadium was less than half full for that one though and I suspect that as per the other games in the football tournament, some stayed away. I mean, it's the Olympics for crying out loud!!

The crowd filled up as expected (it was a sell out overall) and over 72,000 people were inside Old Trafford by the time that Great Britain and Senegal took to the pitch. Two giant screens had been placed in two corners of the old main stand at the ground, so as such they weren't able to be at full capacity, but still pretty good. The national anthem was spine tingling as virtually the whole crowd was singing along, and it felt rather passionate to say the least. That's going to be my tune of the day as I felt rather proud as well. Of course as the England football team use the same anthem, the Welsh players in the Great Britain team didn't sing..

The first half and Great Britain were attacking the end closest to me and my friend, and after a few good attacks we were rewarded. The free kick was floated in by Ryan Giggs but wasn't so well cleared, and up stepped Craig Bellamy to smash it home low and hard. The crowd went mental (me included) as it was the first Great Britain men's football goal for over 50 years or so, pretty amazing when you think about it. It was more of the same during the first half with Danny Sturridge missing a great chance.

The second half was virtually all Senegal though as we sat back, although Britain should have had a penalty when Craig Bellamy was upended in the opposite box. Even though I didn't have a great view of it, seeing it on the replays later showed to me that it was definitely without doubt a penalty, and so with that sense of injustice still raging, there were a few tasty tackles going in. However, a poor short corner resulted in break from Senegal and with ten minutes left they equalised, and even though Marvin Sordell hit the bar late on, it wasn't enough and a frustrating 1-1 draw was ours.

It was a slow walk back to the Metrolink station at Old Trafford to get the tram back to Brooklands, but the staff on site were very organised and got people on their way with minimum of fuss, and were also controlling how many people were on the platform at any one time so that you weren't getting crushed on the way back, which was very sensible indeed. It had been a positive experience overall and one which really did make me feel rather proud to be there. More to come!

Wednesday 25th July - Let The Olympics Begin

I know what you're thinking. The opening ceremony to the London 2012 Olympics is actually on Friday, right? It is, but the football tournament always starts a day or two before to make sure that all the group games, quarter finals, semis and finals can be fitted in within the timeframe of the games, which makes perfect sense to me. It also was very sensibly scheduled so that one of the first games to be played today was the British women's team against New Zealand and timed so people could watch it.

And watch it I did, albeit delayed as I wasn't home from work in time for kick off, but this is where your Freeview HD recorder comes in handy of course. I watched the game in full and noticed that despite the not so full crowd, the fans were out there in force to support the girls, and they certainly were intent on dominating the game, with the New Zealand players in the first half hanging on a fair bit to ensure that they went in at half time with the scores level at 0-0. I was a little gutted that Britain hadn't scored, but knew it would come.

And come it did, and a great goal when it did happen. An excellent free kick from Steph Houghton midway through the second half found the bottom corner, and although New Zealand fought back, the British ladies certainly did more than enough to suggest that they would be possible contenders to maybe get to the semi finals and who knows after that? I did see some of the other games as well this evening, seeing Brazil, also in Britain's group, give Cameroon a good 5-0 tonking, along with highlights of the USA coming back from 2-0 down to beat France 4-2.

It certainly whetted the appetite for more Olympic action for me in the next few days, and even more so when I noticed that more tickets for some of the events had gone on sale. It was tempting, but most of the tickets were in the most expensive price bracket (we're talking £725 for the athletics finals for example) and so I declined to do it. Mind you, I've got beach volleyball, tennis and football to see, and who knows what might happen in the next two weeks? We shall see.

Tune of the day is the BBC theme for the Olympics, namely "First Steps" by Elbow. You may have heard it a lot recently in the build up to the games itself, but hearing it on the actual coverage with a vocal choir certainly brought a lump in the throat to think it's all finally here. I must admit I'm getting ready for it all now and I suspect that if I'm not at the Games themselves then the TV just might have to be tuned in to to see what is happening at each of the various events...

Tuesday 24th July - Muggy Motorway Mania

Had a pretty busy day of it at work, and spent a bit of time working on a Samsung R780 laptop. For some reason after I'd updated the BIOS, the driver package for the R580 (which also works on the R780) wasn't playing ball, and I eventually found out why. Earlier BIOS revisions showed the R780's WMI "model" string as R780/R778, but if you update the BIOS, the string shows R780 only. Once I'd made some corrections to the way that the task sequence brings down the driver package (it does conditional WMI checks to ensure only the right set of drivers are installed) then it worked rather well.

It was still really muggy and humid as I left work, and I had a few cold drinks when I got back home to keep myself hydrated and keep the heat off where possible. The Love In My Heart came over later, straight from work as it happened, and she was nice and relaxed shortly enough after a long day at the office herself. I made us some tagliatelle carbonara for tea as I knew that'd be relatively quick and painless, and indulged her in the soaps so she could chill out and watch Emmerdale. Kind of wish they'd bring back the original theme though.

We headed to my Mum's for a little while not long after, and we sat in the back garden on the table and chairs which was very nice in the late evening, with some shade and fresh air which was rather nice. We chatted to Mum and I brought over the pictures I'd had developed from the two rolls of film I took at Lyme Park. Mum was quite pleased with the pictures and even more so that she was on some of them too! I gave her first refusal at which ones she wanted to keep for herself, and that only seemed fair to me. There was even a bottle of Hobgoblin for me to drink - bonus!

In fact I also made Mum's day by giving her my old small Nikon digital camera. I used it well for years but as Mum's camera decided to not play ball when we were out, the least I could do was see what I had. I checked it was still working well (which it was!) and even has a viewfinder too, which Mum's used to on her film camera that she also has. She could even take out the memory card from the camera she did have and put it in the Nikon, so she was all good to go, I showed her what to do with it and it seemed nice and easy for her to pick up. Needless to say she was rather happy!

It was good to head back and see the BBC Four documentary about the motorways in the UK, with expert narration from the Gene Genie himself, Philip Glenister. It was intriguing too how the M62 over Scammonden Dam was built, and how the bridge near the dam was actually a concession to walkers and hikers so that they could explore the moorland without interruption (it's rather windy up there of course though!) complete with 1960s style Pathé News bulletins documenting the whole thing, rather quirky that but good fun nonetheless. In fact tune of the day is quite apt: "2-4-6-8 Motorway" by the Tom Robinson Band. Well, made sense to me!

Monday 23rd July - Muggy Monday

It felt rather warm but also quite muggy and close. I was lucky that the office at work has air conditioning, and so at least was able to do my work in relative comfort most of the time. I spent a fair bit of time during the day working on imaging a Samsung R780 laptop, and as the drivers were the same as the R580, all it needed was a little tweak from me to a query that also queried the other model number, and that was all of it sorted. It looked too like it was going to do the business in terms of delivering applications, but for some reason nothing was happening and nothing was coming down, despite the fact that everything looked okay on the SCCM console. One to ponder over tomorrow.

In the meantime I also spent a fair bit of time checking over some documentation as well as possibly looking at packaging up Dropbox. However, it's not really designed for corporate use, and their policy of installing it on a per-user basis is a bit of a headache, and here's why. Unless you have admin rights, you can't run the installer, and do you really want to be giving all your users admin rights? Of course you don't. There is a way you can force it to install to a common folder meaning that all users will be able to run Dropbox, but then when it asks for updates (as it inevitably does) - you then need an admin ID and password to install the update. Meh!

To be perfectly honest, it's an application not fit for corporate or enterprise use whatsoever, it's okay on your own personal machine where most likely you'll be an admin of some sort even if not the main administrator user, but you'd think they'd learn from what Google did with their Chrome browser and make a version much more suited to the enterprise world. Even packaging up an MSI installer and maybe adding some registry keys to prevent updates happening would be a nice start.

Anyway, I headed home, managed to make myself some Quorn escalopes with cheese and broccoli with some couscous, caught up on some telly, watched the first of the new series of Coast (always very informative and educational too - Nick Crane is the sort of person you know is just going to try his hand at anything but always maintain that real sense of approachable knowledge) and then take it easy for the rest of the evening with some rock on. First off some Dream Theater followed by some Black Flag, with "Six Pack" being an obvious choice for tune of the day - the way it just grows with the killer bass hook before the vocals come in make it worth the wait!

Sunday 22nd July - Yorkshire Giants

The Love In My Heart and I planned a day out today, as she suggested that we head to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It's been somewhere that I've always wanted to go to, but never had the time to (and it's not the easiest place to reach by public transport either) so when The Love had the idea I thought "why not". And so with camera battery charged, petrol filled in the tank on the way, we were soon heading out into the countryside. I'd worked out that in terms of distance going via Holmfirth was the easiest way, and on the way there it was via Mottram Moor, Hollingworth and Tintwistle before heading up and over Holme Moss (very steep though, not for the faint hearted!) and then to Holmfirth. From there it was across on the A635 and then A636 and A637 there.

The main car park was full so The Love had to head back out, go down the next lane and at the top of there use what's called their overspill car park, which had a smaller café and much less busy car park, and indeed also had the all important pay kiosk for parking. You don't pay to get into the park itself, instead the money is made by charging £7.50 per car at weekend (handy tip: car share if you can.) We picked up a guide to the park and started following one of the paths down which took us past a large totem pole and also an interactive dome where when you walked through various musical notes played depending on the speed and movement, quite nifty that.

We also got to see the likes of Magdalena Abakanowicz's "Seated Figures" which overlooked a large garden space, that also had the rather thought provoking "Sitting" by Sophie Ryder, with a half female half rabbit form, split in half vertically. It was also good to see the Antony Gormley "One and Other" which was placed atop a tree stump high up and close to the Cascade Bridge which took you over the space between the lower and upper lake within the park. The views from this bridge were rather lovely, especially with the sun out of course.

We decided (or rather, I did, I must admit) that we'd do well to try and see all the main sculpture attractions within the park and so headed on the long walk up Longside to the very top, past all the cows who were just grazing and minding their own business, and up to the Longside Gallery, which had a collection on from Anish Kapoor, which again was great to look at, and the view from there over the rolling hills was one well worth the walk up for. Having a coffee at the small outdoor café was a good move as it gave us chance to refresh before we went back down the other way, along Oxley Bank.

The intriguing "Basket #7" sculpture greeted us first and you could explore inside the basket, taking the views over the hills from the meshed inside, and the way it was made, some of the little passageways were like that - little - not the sort of place to be if you've put on a few pounds and panic about fitting in small spaces (the former for me!) - and walking through the trees along Oxley Bank led us to Andy Goldsworthy's "Hanging Trees" which are just that - enclosed in some stone walls and hanging horizontally. Quite different, and a precursor to walking through the forest and down the Seventy One Steps by David Nash to the lakeside.

Crossing the lake at the far end of the Lower Lake, we headed along a field with plenty of Henry Moore sculptures, which was good to see. What wasn't good to see was that some people didn't clearly read the sculpture park's code, or indeed the sign at one of the sculptures, which clearly said not to climb on it, yet they did. Morons! It makes me wonder how much people actually appreciate public art or just think it's an adventure playground or something, meh. We got to the main visitors' centre and I had a drink there overlooking the hillside, which was very nice.

We also got to see the sculptures and artwork of Joan Miró, which was inspiring to see. Many of the colourful artworks were seen as limited edition prints, and they were upwards of £2,000 each for the most valuable ones. I was a bit annoyed at some people trying to take pictures with their cameras of the prints, because they clearly couldn't read or even see the clear "no photography" sign that was up aroud the main halls (and this even applied to the Miró sculptures outside, and I was very respectful of that) but the artwork and sculptures in the main halls were really inspiring to me, and showed that through every different mind is a different idea of what art is.

The best was till last though, as we headed back along towards our car park and down the hill, we came across Jonathan Borofsky's "Molecule Man 1+1+1" with three men locked in battle heading to the centre with their heads, and then of course the late Dame Barbara Hepworth's "The Family of Man" which led you down the hill to look at all the different shapes and peeking through the holes in the middle of them to see what view points that you could get. Really wonderful stuff and I could have happily sat there with a cold drink in amongst the sculptures to be honest.

We headed back out of the Sculpture Park and after an estimated 5 miles plus of walking around (it's a fair distance to the Longside Gallery and back let me tell you) and stopped off in Holmfirth. It was quite quiet with the shops shut but I knew that there were some nice pubs overlooking the river. We stopped off in the Old Bridge Hotel, and that was a very worthwhile stop. Not only did they have six different real ales on cask (ooh yes, and it was the likes of Black Sheep and Golden Pippin too) but also the food was gorgeous and plentiful. The Love went for the Sunday Roast pork, and it was tons of pork with proper mash, vegetables and a large Yorkshire pudding which was pretty ace.

However even that as nice as it was, was usurped by what I had - the filled Yorkshire pudding. For the money it was very well worth it, with four large sausages, proper mash, shed loads of peas and gravy in a large square Yorkshire pudding that was literally just able to fit on the large plate. Best meal of its type I've ever had, and to be honest I want to go back there soon and have it again (probably best to on an empty stomach though!) and with a pint of Black Sheep as well, life was perfect really.

We headed back to mine and The Love headed home. I felt sad because the weekend had come to an end and it was superb, but at the same time consoled myself with the fact that it was going to be sunny for the next few days. I caught up with the F1 highlights (and was so pleased to see Jenson Button back on form - his eventual second place was well deserved and the stewards were right to demote Sebastian Vettel post-race, well done JB and indeed David Coulthard for spotting that Seb had broken the regulations!).

I also saw Adam Scott fluff it in the golf, and Ernie Els deserved to win for playing the conditions properly and being under par for the round (an honourable mention to Luke Donald who also got under par today and leapt to 5th with some controlled shots, well done Luke!) Clearly the conditions were tricky but you had to play the right way and take your chances, and each time Ernie Els had a difficult put he nailed it, and the epic birdie putt at the last was heard a few holes back which pressured Scott into the mistakes. Just goes to show that you have to keep going to win, and that's what it's about. Tune of the day is "Chase Side Shoot Up" by Brian Bennet, the proper golf theme (BBC take note, we'd like the original back thank you very much!)

Saturday 21st July - Dining in Disley

I had a fairly relaxed sort of day today. I got up, got the house pretty much sorted out and then headed into the city centre, and first stop was The Northern Cutter where it was good to have my hair done in quick time and indeed have a good bit of football banter with the staff in there as well - and all in a nice chilled out atmosphere. After a quick walk around some of the shops I headed in the Virgin Money Lounge for a well earned coffee and brioche, whilst looking out of the window from upstairs and watching the Open Golf on the large screen telly as well. It was rather blissful to take it at a slower pace.

I headed home, nipped out to do a little bit of shopping but also research. I knew that Poundland stocked cheap film for my Nikon F80 film SLR but wanted to know if any of the many local cheap shops here had it. Only one of them did and it was £2 for a 24 exposures roll of Kodak ColourPlus 200. I guess that stuff probably gets in Poundland occasionally, so no need to get it (plus I've got three rolls of film that I got the other night). Still, good to know if stocks dry up I've got another outlet to get them from in any case.

I spent most of the afternoon in betwen the Open Golf as well as the F1 qualifying later on, and it was good to see the drivers being tested in the rain and the drivers being pretty much relegated in the golf, as careful positioning of the ball on most of the fairways was required. It was a pretty good test and the third round was warming up nicely - even though Adam Scott was heading a bit ahead of the rest. However the weather forecast was for some wind tomorrow so it'd be a good and proper test then to see what happened.

The Love In My Heart came over, and we both got ourselves ready for the evening. She looked as beautiful as she always does in her gold dress, and it was one that makes me feel good seeing her in it as it was a birthday present I got her. I'd planned a nice meal for us together and so we were going out on the train for a change. It wasn't far to my local station and from there we'd take the train on to Disley, just the other side of Lyme Park. The evening return deal with the local rail company meant that it'd be a nice cheap £2.50 return each to get there and back, which I worked out would be cheaper than the petrol cost and meant we could both have a drink.

We got to The Ram's Head, and straight away were seen to by the attentive staff, who placed us in a nice table with a window close to us and some lovely comfortable chairs, and a nice light fitting from the ceiling with some gentle light too, so was very intimate and cosy. They even had Black Sheep best on cask, so I wasn't going to say no to some of that (it'd have been rude not to, to be quite honest). The music in the background was even playing some 1980s and 1990s alternative music, including Depeche Mode's classic "Enjoy the Silence" (make it tune of the day) and all was well with the world.

The food was excellent too - as it should be, its sister pub the Midland in Marple Bridge has the same menu (and we love it there). I had the bread with olive oil to start and that was gorgeous, and the main of the gammon steak with chips and egg was just the spot with really thick cut meat as well. The Love's main of the beer battered haddock was gorgeous too, and for dessert, well it just had to be, one of my all time favourites, the treacle and ginger tart with clotted cream. Ooh yes. It was nice too to sit in the bar and relax afterwards before heading on the train back home, two very happy contented bunnies.

Friday 20th July - Rocking For Team GB

I'd had a busy day at work and mainly sorting out some issues why a desktop machine just wouldn't image properly, and finally worked out what was wrong. It turned out that the RAM wasn't correctly seated in its slot, so changed the RAM slots that it was in (just in case) and booted it up, and badabing! It imaged first go, so that was rather good methinks. It also meant I could get on with working on some other stuff such as the Group Policy Shortcuts and seeing it we could get something to work correctly, which we did. Hurrah! Isn't it good when things work?

After heading to Tesco to get the food shopping in, I kept one eye on Manchester City's pre-season game against Besiktas and it was good to see that Sergio Agüero scored a pretty good finish, but was usurped by the run from Vincent Kompany leading to a precise chip over the keeper to make it 2-0 to City. A well earned victory in the end and one that I think was much deserved, all things considered. There'll be a trip over to Malaysia and China in the next week or two for the Blues, but hopefully things are starting to pull together rather nicely.

I'd also spent some time listening to an arrival in today's post, last year's EP by Manchester grrrl rock three piece, (hooker) (and yes the brackets are intentional, folks.) Their "Dance to the Beat of a Lonely Heart EP" certainly hits the right notes, with some nice dirty bass and excellent vocals from Zoë McVeigh along the way. Out of the three tracks, the closer "Waiting For You" is my favourite, it just seems to have more feeling, and played a lot slower but just works really well, so tune of the day right there. I went back and listened to the previous two Black and Grey EPs after that, simply because!

I'd invited my friend over with the incentive of pizza and watching the Team GB game against Brazil. It was always good to see my friend and we had a good chat whilst watching Brazil play rather well and give the British boys a bit of a tonking it has to be said. When you can call on established players like Hulk, Oscar and Neymar (although he tended to cheat by diving all over the place, so not good) and they know how to play the game, the British boys just seemed to be running around a bit and not just quite there. Man City's Micah Richards gave away the penalty for the second goal and the BBC pundits were like a lynch mob on him, meh. Thank heavens for the nice Pizza Express classic pizzas I picked up in Tesco - my friend said the margherita was spot on!

After the football I stuck on Rock Band 3 and we spent the rest of the evening in full on rock mode, with many tracks being played, the likes of The Police's "Don't Stand So Close To Me", REM's classic "Stand", and I even downloaded the David Bowie classic "Ziggy Stardust" which my friend being the Bowie diehard he is, nailed it pretty well on vocals. As a test of the vocal prowess, he took on INXS' "Need You Tonight" on his usual level of medium first and did excellent, and then tried expert, and the difference really shows just how pitch perfect that you have to be - it's tough but fair (one day I'll nail this song 100%, I can get around 95% right now..)

The evening went by far too quickly and it was a great time spent with my friend, and with six days to go till we go to the Olympics to see the football at Old Trafford, that'll very nicely lend itself to next season indeed, can't wait. It was a good time had and I might have to do that again some time in the next few weeks - a bit of rocking and a bit of food. And why the hell not, might as well make the most of the time I have! Must go back and try to nail the bass on Stand...

Thursday 19th July - Tea For Two

I had a busy day in the office today as I was spending time with one of our Helpline staff going through pretty much everything Mac that I could think of, and then some. In fact after a reinstall of Office 2011 on my Macbook Pro, I tried to see if I could get Remote Desktop Connection to work with a PC in Active Directory (the Mac itself isn't in Active Directory you see). I found out that if I put the full DNS registered name of the machine in, it would actually work properly by putting in my full AD account user name and password. Rock and proverbially roll.

Mind you the rain in the afternoon didn't help. I was over in another building doing a job, and the rain just started to absolutely lash it down as we were going to head back. Even by taking all the routes through the buildings that I know of, it still meant heading out in the rain for a little while and so it was a case of sprinting over and seeing what could be done. It was good to be able to get all that sorted out and so meant that I could relax and have a very enjoyable evening.

I headed through the city centre on the way to see The Love In My Heart, and as I headed off the bus and towards her place I noticed that one of the main roads near her was closed off in one direction. She told me that she had heard sirens herself and was wondering what it was. I found out much later on that a car had hit two people crossing the road with them taken to hospital, and I suspect that the road wasn't open whilst the police did their forensics and stuff like that.

The Love made me a very nice meal indeed, some lovely chicken in a tomato and basil sauce with a shed load of nice vegetables and some potatoes too, and was all very tasty indeed. We snuggled a fair bit for the evening as she indulged in the soaps, with the proverbial cliff hanger happening in between the two episodes of Emmerdale on the night, as it did. We did see most of Country House Rescue later on and it was good to see that a place in the Scottish borders with tons of history was getting the tender loving care that it deserved. If I could afford it the self-catering accommodation block within the castle itself looked pretty smart!

It was hard to say goodbye and head home, but I knew that The Love needed to get up early for work and so headed on the bus back. Going through the city centre, it was notable to see that it was rather busy for a Thursday evening with plenty out having a few drinks and generally enjoying themselves. In a way, Thursday night's almost become the start of the weekend for some, more so if they've taken the Friday off and so can sleep off any hangover that they might have had!

Tune of the day is pretty apt as it's the first day of the Open Golf at Royal Lytham and St Annes today, and I wanted to try and keep an eye on it, and I did a little bit at The Love's place whilst she was making the tea. It was the original BBC golf theme before it got remixed and messed around with (same story of course with the snooker theme) and the original theme was "Chase Side Shoot Up" by Brian Bennet. Why this wasn't on the "Great Sporting Experience" CD with all the other classic TV sports themes I have no idea, but it's good to hear the proper classic original, let me tell you (complete with 70s keyboard riffs!)

Wednesday 18th July - Surprise, Surprise!

Life as they say, is full of surprises (although maybe not in the Cilla Black mode of the old ITV show eh?). And there were a few today. First of all, it was a surprise that out of five different machines that I was imaging, only three of them were successful, and only two of them first go. Mind you, I knew that the hardware was the possible cause and fault of some of what had happened and a quick format of one of the hard disks got that sorted and up and running, so that was good.

Another surprise was that more Olympic and Paralympic tickets were released at lunchtime today. I had planned with The Love In My Heart to go to the athletics in the Paralympic Games because it meant we could go to the Olympic Stadium and see some sport and not spend the massive prices currently on offer for the main event (£725 for the top athletics prices, ouch!). Anyway, a quick check of the tickets website, and for the final evening of the athletics, tickets were available for £20, and we managed to get two!

In fact when I looked at the seating plan, we'll be near the top of block 205, which is on the home straight, so in terms of seeing the events' end, it won't be too bad whatsoever, and it'll be good to see the action from there. And the trains we booked were also cheap - in fact cheaper on Virgin Trains' website instead of the London 2012 Rail Travel one - a mere £21.60 return for each of us, which is nothing really. Of course it'll be a good day out all told and I thought it'd be pretty good to support the Paralympians as well.

I checked back for the Olympic tickets, and to my amazement found that there were £20 tickets going for the beach volleyball afternoon session on Saturday 28th July. Perfect, I thought to myself, and so booked them and once that was done booked the necessary trains as well. I must admit that I do feel pretty excited now the games are getting closer, and the fact that I'm going to London three times during the games (beach volleyball, tennis and football) as well as trips to Old Trafford and St James' Park in Newcastle for the football really show that I'm getting into the spirit of it. I counted in total that it'll be nine events I'm going to, and five of them are on five days on the bounce from 28th July to 1st August, so that's going to keep me rather busy isn't it?

An even nicer surprise than that was later on. The Love was getting her hair cut this afternoon and once it was done she texted me and asked if I fancied meeting her for a drink after work. I suggested Sandbar and she was up for that, and she wanted to show off her new hairdo too. It was good to finish work and head straight there to meet her, and she'd already got me a drink of this very nice and light Summery ale too, which was very kind. We sat outside as the weather was actually sunny (I know, stop the press!) and had a good chat.

Admittedly The Love's hair looked lovely and she really suited how it had been done, and so she looked even more gorgeous than nomal (if that's possible!) - and after a drink there we headed into the city centre and went to Kro in Piccadilly for a drink too, so that was also lovely as the Build a Rocket Boys beer was on (ooh yes!) and had to have some of that. It was nice just to relax and chat again and it felt like a lovely way to start the evening too. I'm so happy right now that everything is falling into place for me in a good way, and she just makes it even nicer.

I got home later and relaxed by watching the Tour de France on ITV4, which was good to see that Bradley Wiggins was still in front and with a chance of being the first British rider ever to win the thing. If that happens, unless someone scores shed loads of gold medals at the Olympics, then Sports Personality of the Year might have to be his to be perfectly honest. Tune of the day is Kraftwerk's "Tour de France (etapes 1-3)" which reminds me of the race but also of the legendary gig that The Love and I went to at Manchester Velodrome, which had the cycling team cycling around during said track. Just how awesome was that? Very, let me tell you.

Tuesday 17th July - Film Through The Rain

It was another day of busy times in the office, with plenty going on. I actually spent some time sorting out a few issues with a login problem on a recently imaged machine, and found out that for some reason it had actually fallen out of Active Directory! I don't know quite why it would do that, but it did. Very strange behaviour, and to be honest something that's a little concerting when there's so much else on to do as well. That said, it was good to get things done and my attitude's always been to try and be as helpful as possible and get people on their way - just has to be done methinks.

I headed into the city centre after work as I wanted to get some film for my Nikon F80 film SLR camera. I'd used the last two rolls of film the other day and had sent them off to the trusty DS Colour Labs people to get them all processed and developed. Thankfully a recent tip off was that Poundland stocked rolls of film for £1, and it was right. In fact it was some Agfa Vista Plus 200, with 36 exposures per roll, so pretty handy that. I looked at the prices for developing at DS Colour and doing a roll of 36 isn't that much more than 24, so actually more cost effective. I got myself three rolls and will see how they roll in the near future.

I got back home admittedly rather wet, as it had been non stop rain pretty much since I left work. It was a bit of a nightmare to be honest because it was very fine (you know, the sort that soaks you through etc) and it's not the best to be out in. I dried off and by the time The Love In My Heart came over for tea, the rain had subsided a bit and I was nice and warm and dry. It was good really because she looked rather lovely in her outfit and it was very nice to see her as it always is!

I made us some spaghetti with meatballs for tea, and that went down very nicely indeed. I had got The Love a nice bottle of white wine, so if she wanted any of that she could have it. I noticed there was some of the Ogio red wine left I'd got the other night so had a glass of that with tea instead, just for a change, and that was rather nice it has to be said. It was good too to snuggle up on the sofa and watch some telly and just take it rather easy after the long day in the office.

Later on it was out with the Scrabble and I played the 10000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged album, which I think worked quite well. Not sure if I can convince The Love of the merits of the wonderful Natalie Merchant, but it certainly was nice and calming enough in the background. Of course the album's got some of their finest songs on, so I think "Don't Talk" is going to be tune of the day - it has a wonderful feel to it and Natalie's vocals are at their finest on there. And of course there just so happens to be a rather good cover version of "Because the Night" on there.

The Love was actually very good indeed last night, producing some high class moves in succession, such as JIVED (J on triple letter, blank used as D and double word, scoring a massive 60 points) and then OX both ways with the X on double letter (scoring a nifty 36 with one letter played), and a few moves later ZOO and PO (triple letter on Z - so 36 points there). It's good to see that nowdays she plays the large scoring letters well and tactically, and it was her second best score in a game ever last night. Looks like I've taught her a bit too well!!

Monday 16th July - Here Comes The Rain Again

More rain today - so it was kind of back to normal after the sort of dry-ish weather that we'd had over the weekend, sadly. It did mean that I was timing my walks out of the office to jobs in other buildings when the weather was less horrible and disruptive. I had spent some time today working on imaging two desktop machines and two laptops, and getting them all up and running for the relevant members of staff, and in between sorting out a few problems along the way.

I got home and after having my tea look outside and notice that the rain was pretty much bucketing it down again. I'm just hoping it stops before the Olympics or else we're going to have some the wettest Games ever on record. I suspect that the Centre Court roof at Wimbledon might well be used for example to keep play going for some time, but we shall see. Overall though I can't remember a June and July being so wet overall, and the best weather we had over here was when I wasn't even in the country (although to be fair it was lovely and hot in Nice, Monaco and Villefranche-sur-mer, so no complaints there really).

I did however read with sadness the news that Jon Lord, one of the founding members and iconic Hammond organ player of Deep Purple, had died today after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. His compositional work and eye for detail was pretty much spot on, and many of Deep Purple's classic songs were underpinned with his keyboard playing and melodies that helped very much form the classic sound (particularly during the legendary Mark II era Deep Purple from 1968 to 1973 - often regarded as the band's finest era and I have to agree!)

Listening to "Smoke on the Water" carefully shows just how much the Hammond is in there and underpins the whole song with structure. Jon wasn't afraid to experiment too, with him scoring the "Concerto For Group and Orchestra" that the band played at the Royal Albert Hall, and even to his last years having a hand in classical composition. In the interviews I've seen him do for the likes of Heavy Metal Britannia on BBC Four, he was always one to tell it like it is but in an authoritative way, and someone you could respect. After all, I mean, he was in Deep Purple, man!

Listening to their back catalogue (a fair amount which I have on vinyl) I go back to the "In Rock" album and in particular to the track "Hard Lovin' Man" which really does showcase all of the band at their peak - and a perfect example of how they and their instruments worked together perfectly - the Hammond solo from Jon in the middle being a case in point. Tune of the day easily really and in fact everyone if they haven't already should get themselves a copy of "In Rock" - you'll even get the classic single "Black Night" on most CD reissues as well, so no complaints there really.

Sunday 15th July - Down in Lyme Park

After a relaxing morning it was time to have a very enjoyable day out for the rest of Sunday, as The Love In My Heart and I were taking my Mum out for the day. We decided on heading to Lyme Park as Mum hadn't been there for some time and we had a voucher from the National Trust where you could get a friend in for free. As we were both members, and it was the last day of the voucher offer, it made perfect sense for us to use it today and it meant that with the weather looking at least dry and decent that we'd make the most of the weather.

We picked Mum up and then headed on down the A6 through Stockport, Hazel Grove and High Lane before heading down the road into Lyme Park, with lots of windy bends that skim past all the trees and hills on the way towards the hall. The car park volunteers directed us to a space close to the kiosk at the bottom of the hill, and that was pretty good as it meant a straight walk up the stairs to the Hall entrance. Up we went and the hall looked very resplendent in the mid afternoon weather. The sun was making an attempt to come out at least!

We got our admission tickets sorted out and off we went through the Hall. Mum really loved it I think, seeing how the Edwardian era of living in the house would have been, with the library and dining room being an obvious highlight. We also liked the fact that the butler's area was being restored which would look good when done, and the children's nursery upstairs had a picture book of one of the children which showed a scrapbook of times gone by. The stage where you could dress up and take your picture as if you were on the theatre stage was an inspired move too - lots of little ones more than happy to dress up with their Mums!

After a very enjoyable time in the Hall we stopped at the little Servants' Hall café for coffee and cake - the carrot cake Mum and I had was gorgeous and really soft and gooey but on the right side of moist too, and far too lovely - I was tempted to have more than one slice it has to be said. It was good to stop off and chat and then after a quick look in the shop where Mum bought an Edwardian cookery book as well as some beeswax polish, we took a leisurely walk around the gardens.

Of course it would be rude not to have the iconic view of the Hall with the reflections of the pond on display, and so it was good to see that working well as ever in the afternoon light. Mum liked the orangery too and the garden displays with many flowers and plants in plentiful bloom despite what's been atrocious weather as of late. It was nice to take the walk too close to the Dutch Garden and around the bottom of the house's gardens, really showed it off to its best I reckon. I had my Nikon F80 film SLR with me and ended up using two rolls of film on shots, way more than I expected!

We walked down and across the Timber Yard to the Crow Wood play area - as Mum wanted to see what it was like so that if she wanted to take the grandchildren there she could see how good it was for them - and was very impressed. We showed her that the café was close by and also the toilets too so if they had used too much energy it wasn't far for them to go for anything either. In all, it was pretty good. The day had gone by pretty quickly and we decided it was time to head for a meal.

We had a lovely meal at The Red Lion in High Lane, with their Sunday roast to die for. Two very attentive things to note: the waitresses actually asked you if you wanted your meat pink or cooked through rather than just assume you wanted it pink, and also they were pleasant and full of smiles. Both made a difference and I just had to have the sticky toffee pudding for dessert after having the rather nice Sunday roast beef (I had it pink!) for the main. The Love and Mum had the roast lamb cooked through, and that it was, so that was good.

We had coffee at Mum's to finish the day off, and it had been a rather lovely time all round. I just thought it was good for Mum to have some quality time with some peace and quiet, and I think as well that for us both it's nice to give something back too. Tune of the day is from the Levellers album I got yesterday: "Beautiful Day" because whenever I hear it I think of happy times, the sun being out (well it sort of was today) but also the fact that the song usually when played live has me bouncing around like a right loon. Those were the days...

Saturday 14th July - Bastille Bargain

It is of course Bastille Day today in France, so no doubt everyone was out watching the Tour de France there if they were able to. I did watch a bit myself earlier in the day on ITV4 which made perfect sense somehow, especially as I wanted to see how the Brits were doing - not least with the maillot jaune up for grabs. It'd be great if there was a Brit winning it, but with some of the trickier mountain stages still to go, it only takes one stage of someone going for glory and staying there and it can all change in an instant. Of course Kraftwerk's "Tour de France" makes ideal listening if need be, so tune of the day that one is.

The Love In My Heart very kindly did some croissants and coffee for breakfast for us both before I set off home so she could get some stuff at home done and I could also clean the house a fair bit as well. It was really good to see that the weather was getting half decent and so the sun tried to shine as I headed into the city centre. I was going to take a look in That's Entertainment and see what CDs I could get - as they often had three CDs for £5 with many racks packed with offers. It was still warm as I headed in there.

The only difficult decision I had was which back catalogue CDs that I needed to fill in some gaps in the collection of mine - and after around half an hour or so I came up with a definitive decision, and went for three CDs by three different bands and artists - so as not to be too biased. So I got The Prodigy's debut album "Experience" to head back to the early 1990s dance vibe that was going on, and then to 1997 where I picked up "Mouth to Mouth" by the Levellers, again gap filled. Of course the massive live favourite "Beautiful Day" is on there and so that just had to be got.

The third and last of the CDs was Paul Weller's 2000 release "Heliocentric" and there's a few reasons for getting this one. It contains the single "Sweet Pea, My Sweet Pea" which is one of The Love In My Heart's all time favourite Weller tracks (he actually wrote it for his daughter Leah) and generally there's much more introspective sound on there. Mine thankfully didn't have tracks four and five the wrong way round on the sleeve (several of them do apparently) so was good to be able to listen to it and know it was as it should be.

I spent the afternoon keeping an eye on the atheltics at Crystal Palace and after last night's excellent performances, not least from Mo Farah and Perri Shakes-Drayton, today was a massive letdown not least with Phillips Idowu pulling out of the triple jump through injury. It did make me wonder if he's actually going to be fit for the games or not to be honest, as he's not competed for so long, but we shall see. On the plus side, there was an excellent wheelchair 800m win for David Weir and he looked imperious as he won it - so fingers crossed for him when he gets on with the Paralympics real soon.

Friday 13th July - Not So Unlucky After All

Considering how trideskiaphobic I actually am, today actually passed off pretty well without any form of bad luck, so that in itself was good. I'd managed to image successfully that Toshiba laptop from yesterday and with all the drivers showing up, and it was just then a case of installing the "Value Added Package" which basically has all the hotkey functionality and other stuff. I also spent a bit of time with a couple of laptops getting them on their way and also checking over some documentation. Busy bunny, me!

I'd headed to the local Sorting Office earlier in the morning as I'd had a delivery by special delivery, and of course I knew what that was - the tickets for the Olympic tennis that I'd managed to get last minute. It was good to pick them up and the tickets were mine! In fact there were several people who must have been heading there that morning as the pile of envelopes which I knew were ones with tickets in was a pretty decent size, and so I was hoping that they'd all manage to get theirs. And the train tickets for the journey were picked up in the post too, so it was rather good all round.

After I'd got home and got changed it was off in the rain to see The Love In My Heart at her place, and from there we'd be picked up by one of our friends who was very kindly cooking for us for the evening, which was very nice of him. He was there with his partner and the four of us had a very nice time of it, with plenty of chat and conversation from all sorts ranging to future holidays, how breakfast telly only works correctly on BBC and how ITV's presenters end up hosting rubbish game shows (yes Ben Shephard that means you) and such like.

The carbonara for the main was gorgeous, and worked beautifully with the real ale that I'd brought along with me. The cheese board for dessert was also an inspired move with the Lancashire cheese being rather gorgeous all round I reckoned, and of course the crackers to go with it just added that right bit of taste and texture all round. It was a very relaxing evening and the time went by far too quickly before The Love and I headed back to hers in a taxi just in time for me not to win absolutely anything in the EuroMillions draw. Oh well, you can't win them all I guess.

Our friend had the three CD set "Keep Calm and Relax" which has a mix of tracks, some good, some not so good (Newton Faulkner's emotionless version of the Massive Attack classic "Teardrop" being an example here). However, it does at least have Faithless' excellent "Don't Leave" on there which is still one of my favourite tracks of theirs - much departed from their more euphoric dance stuff, but shows a completely different and sensitive side to them - and for that reason alone it's tune of the day - so there you go.

Thursday 12th July - Sunset in Chorlton

Had a pretty productive day of sorts in the office today, and spent some time with one of our Helpline staff going through plenty of Mac stuff with them, and having a walk around a few of the buildings in the afternoon and getting some jobs done. I thought it'd be nice to see various staff out there and make a good time of it, but also be able to see just what we have to do on a day to day basis. Sometimes you just have to make the most of the time that you have to be able to pass on information in the right way.

I also picked up a Toshiba Tecra A850 laptop which was purchased by one of the departments, which I'm sure we'll have a bit of fun with imaging for Windows 7, not least as I don't think that there's any driver package available for it as yet. I spent a bit of time therefore downloading all the drivers and extracting them where possible so that they're just the raw .inf files with all the other files needed, makes life much easier when you're creating a driver package I reckon.

I arrived home later on and spent a fair bit of time seeing what other tickets are around for London 2012 - it seems that on a not too infrequent basis that extra tickets are released, so might be worth seeing occasionally if you can get one. There's still plenty left for the Paralympics though so I might see if I can head along for the athletics there and cheer on the athletes in the Olympic Stadium there - for me that'd make perfect sense and something that would mean a lot cheaper cost in getting to and seeing the events as well. Possibilities, methinks.

The Love In My Heart came over straight from work as she had parked the car at mine and set off from mine to work earlier in the day, and after she'd got changed we decided with the evening still dry and light that it'd be nice to take a walk, so went over to Chorlton Water Park and did a nice walk around the lake/pond there. As we got to where there's a bridge over the River Mersey, we noticed that in fact there was a cycling event going on, with some cross country style up and down the river bank and through some trees as well. It looked pretty good fun and the cyclists were going for it massively.

As we walked back around the water park, the sun was setting and the sky was a beautiful colour as it did so, it looked really nice as well and it was good to see that the stillness of the water just reflected beautifully. It was hard to leave but we'd spent a fair bit of time there, so headed home via having something to eat at The Four In Hand in West Didsbury, where their Thursday evening grill night is rather good value. I had the gammon steak with chips and peas, and a pint of real ale for a mere £5.60. You simply cannot argue with that whatsoever!

Later on we relaxed with some TV but it was just nice to make the use of the light and sunshine and time together, and that was good. Tune of the day today sums it all really - "Twelve Hours of Sunset" by Roy Harper, which has a peaceful sereneness all of its own. It's one of the stand out tracks on his 1974 album "Valentine" and really does make you feel all calm and relaxed once you listen to it. In fact it made me go and listen to the rest of the album so I'd feel even more chilled out before heading to sleep.

Wednesday 11th July - I'm on BBC News (sort of)

I had had a pretty productive day of sorts in the office as I'd got a few Windows 7 things going on and sorted out some queries, as well as checking over some research that I wanted to do in terms of where we were at with some software installation problems as well. It was all going decently enough and even with the delay in getting an imaged machine back into the SCCM database at least that side of it was going well enough. I had to nip out and grab some coffee and milk for the office at lunch time and when I came back I had a nice surprise.

I'd received an email from someone at BBC News who was covering a story on Rod Drew, who as the Torch Rider has been following the Olympic Torch all over the country on its relay, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support at the same time (a charity I wholeheartedly support myself so I'm more than happy to support the cause) and as such he was heading back to his native Dorset soon to follow the torch there. So the local BBC News in Dorset was going to carry a story about him and so asked me for the use of a picture which I'd taken of him when the torch relay was near me.

I was only too happy to oblige - after all it's not every single day that you actually get a request like that is it? I cleared it with them that I wanted my name fully credited, which they were more than happy to do, and around an hour or so later I checked the BBC News' website, and there it was - my picture and everything! For those of you interested, here's the news story and here's the original pic on Flickr. As you can see the Beeb cropped it a little as you'd expect, but nonetheless still pretty pleased with myself. It's good to see that they kept their side of the bargain and all.

I spent some time during the evening listening to some albums I'd not listened to for a while, and on the new rig too which seemed to give them new life. What benefitted the most was The Sundays' classic and in my view vastly under-rated debut album "Reading, Writing and Arithmetic" which didn't need over producing or masses of instruments, just beautiful music with hauntingly lovely vocals from Harriet Wheeler and a really lovely feel to it all. And of course it contains the original non-ruined version of "Here's Where The Story Ends" which for that reason alone has to give it a must-listen.

But the final track on the album leaves you with a lump in the throat, such is its beauty. "Joy" is anything but, even though the ending might leave some of you thinking it's actually triumphant, it's the emotional vocal of Harriet that really draws you in, grabs you by the proverbial throat and doesn't let go - at all. It's got to be tune of the day for me really - it reminds me of being much younger and buying the album on CD (long been deleted, mine's the original Rough Trade release I should add) and being captivated by it as an eighteen year old. How times have changed...

Tuesday 10th July - Birthdays and Bosses

After work it was time to have a bit of relaxing time and catching up on some more telly. I was going to watch more but then I noticed that ITV1 had this new game show called Tipping Point so wanted to see for myself what the fuss was all about. I wished that I hadn't have bothered. Basically, you've all played those 2p falls machines in the arcades where you drop a 2p coin, and you get it to knock the coins off a succession of ledges and coins that fall off the bottom ledge become yours. Well imagine that turned into a show with some quiz questions in between and you've pretty much got the concept right there.

Add to that a presenter with a lack of personality that Ben Shephard has (the sole reason the Krpyton Factor remake failed was because they didn't get a presnter not even half as good as the legendary Gordon Burns I reckon) and you've pretty much got the concept. The fact ITV only have commissioned twenty episodes (four weeks of five) to me sums up that maybe they weren't overly convinced by the concept either to be honest. Either way, it's pretty poor compared to the fun and games that you can have with Pointless (after all, where else could you have a round for "tits and finches"?) and one I'll try not to watch again.

I went round to see my uncle later as it was his birthday. Most of the family were there already and so it was good to see them all - and my uncle was pretty pleased. He did pretty well - got all three Amy Macdonald CDs so he effectively had the back catalogue, pretty good there, and a couple of Manchester City related books as well as some clothes for his holiday. We'd got him a gift card for one of the shops he gets clothes from so he could treat himself (it's what he wanted!) and so that was all good. The Love In My Heart came over for a while later too so was good to see her of course.

The two of us headed back to mine and I made us spaghetti carbonara for tea, and that was nice, and we then settled in for the evening to watch Undercover Boss on 4Seven. It was pretty good as the boss owned a chain of nightclubs and he wanted to go behind the scenes and see what actually was happening. Having someone there have to be the medic on site and see how many people were just way too drunk to help themselves was pretty shocking, but plenty of people were dedicated and it was good to see that being recognised, although from the outside the club in Swansea didn't look that enticing, more so when you saw the state of the loos after a night in the club!

We then played back some of the Monaco Grand Prix that I'd recorded from BBC1 HD and attempted to see if we could spot ourselves in the crowd. We knew which part of the track that we were at and we also knew whereabouts we were stood, and so I kept pausing the recording to see if we could see ourselves - I think we did a couple of times but it was hard to know for definite really. Nonetheless it brought back lovely memories for us both and if we had the money, then we'd both be back there doing it all again without question, let me tell you.

Tune of the day in the meantime is the rather nice and relaxing "Where The Wild Roses Grow" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. On a day where the whole Jason and Kylie reunion during concert thing was cancelled due to the weather, it's well to remember that Kylie has guest vocalled on some stuff you wouldn't expect her to, including the above Nick Cave track, although she does a rather lovely job on it, it has to be said. Think mid 1990s indie Kylie before she got back famous again and there you have it.

Monday 9th July - Catching Up CSI

After a fairly long and somewhat frustrating day at the office for one reason or another (lots of stuff going on and not enough time to do it amongst other things) it was time to head home and think about something else - namely catching up on some recordings on the Humax Freeview HD box. I'd piled up a few episodes of CSI (the original Vegas one of course) from this series on Channel 5, so after having my tea I decided that it'd be a good idea to play them back and get up to speed, notably as there were episodes with Julie "Finn" Finlay as the new character.

It was clear to me from the first one that bringing in Ted Danson as the main investigator was a master stroke, and throughout this series he's been excellent. Here as DB Russell he's more so as he requests help from Finn on a case where a blood expert was needed, and his little quirks came to the fore massively. There's clearly unfinished business between DB and Finn (something the Americans will already know about as the series has already completed over there) so will be intriguing to see what happens there and how it interacts over the next few episodes.

My favourite of the ones I saw was "CSI Unplugged" where a power outage effectively wiped out the power to thw whole of the city so the team had to think more on their feet. It was particularly effective when Greg suggested to Morgan that she use an older microscope and go back in time and do it old school, and the chemistry between them was plain to see - in more ways than one. It was really good though because it showed that you had to think with your brain and on your feet too.

Tune of the day is "Who Are You?" by The Who, which has pretty much been the theme of CSI since series two and has carried on being so to the present day. It was great that they used such a classic track and it really does fit in with the title sequence and the whole theme of the show as a whole, and out of the three franchises, I still massively prefer the original Vegas one - it seems more gritty somehow and at the same time has that human element as well, which is good.

It was then later on a case of sorting out the pictures from Saturday's trip to the National Football Museum and see what worked out well and what didn't. I was quite pleased in the end that there were some good shots, notably of some of the special exhibitions on the third floor, but also that the light up there really helped make everything seem more airy and more spacious than it actually was. I'm sure the museum will be a success, it just depends on how much now..

Sunday 8th July - Walking and Wimbledon

As the weather was still pretty good up in Manchester, The Love in My Heart and I decided to head out for a while and spend some quality time together before heading back to see the Wimbledon final between Andy Murray and Roger Federer. I freely admit that I was quite pleased to see Murray make it to the final but whilst my heart wanted a win my head was realistically thinking that Roger might have too much experience of winning the title before to actually give it up that easily.

But with Jonathan Marray's epic doubles win last night (first British player to win the men's doubles since the 1930s) there was renewed hope. I saw the last of the game with him in and it was a great effort to clinch the match in the deciding set, and I'm sure the Centre Court crowd who stayed around got their money's worth to say the least. Too many people had decided to head off after the women's final and for me that's a shame - too many corporate people there and not enough real fans in my view.

We decided to have a nice stroll around Dunham Massey. We were going to take the country path to Little Bollington but this was still flooded in places, so not ideal, so instead we followed one of the main paths along to the edge of the park, seeing plenty of deer along the way, and then walking along a path at the back to another main path, which was tarmaced and led us back to the house and gardens. Plenty of deer were out grazing which was lovely, and one of them even spotted some spilled ice cream by the little ice cream kiosk and so decided to eat all of that!

It was good to have a walk around and we exited out and took the road left instead of right back to Altrincham which took us along some nice country lanes and eventually to Lymm, which looked quite nice and pretty with its main streets. We managed to get a parking space and had a nice stroll around the little shops which all looked very lovely indeed, and had a mid afternoon lunch in one of the pubs, which was very good value - certainly the gammon I had was top notch as well.

Interestingly, all of the pubs were showing the tennis on the big screens - quite a contrast considering it's normally the football on there. I suspect of course a lot of them will do the Olympics as well to get the punters in and I can't say I blame them - if I ran a pub, I would be doing the same, understandably. We had lunch, walked back along the lovely canal to The Love's car, and headed back to mine to watch the Wimbledon final, and it was timed pretty well so we got back just after the rain delay had finished.

The last two sets were all about how fine a line it is at the top. Andy Murray lost serve once in the third set and at 40-0 up he shouldn't have, but Federer pounced and ended up taking the set 6-3. It was going to be a tall order but Murray tried his heart out, and again it was just one game with a service break that meant that in the end Federer won 6-4 and the match in four sets. It's such a very fine line though and the breaks could have gone the other way which would have been good for Murray.

He was visibly upset afterwards post-match and it was good to see - even Federer said it showed how much he cares and wants the trophy and very sportingly said that one day he will win a Grand Slam event - and he would deserve to as well. As much as some of the British population might have disliked him for winning it, he's such a sporting and fair person that if Murray didn't win it, I suspect a lot of people would have wanted Federer to win. By doing so he equalled Pete Sampras' modern day 7 titles record and netted Oxfam a cool £100,000 plus into the bargain.

Later on I watched the British Grand Prix F1 race in full that I'd recorded off BBC HD. Surprisingly it wasn't raining through the race which did at least mean some very fast driving but ultimately meant that you needed to be up front to have a chance of winning. Fernando Alonso's strategy was incorrect in the end - he should have done a middle stint on the soft tyres and then gone to hard and he may have won, but a deserved win for Mark Webber it has to be said. Tune of the day has to be "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac - no other tune seems right for F1 coverage somehow!

Saturday 7th July - Barbecues, Rackets and Football

This morning I headed along to the new home of the National Football Museum at Urbis in Manchester, mainly to check out what it was like but also to see how the exhibition space had been transformed along with some of the special exhibits currently on show. Of course I love football anyway, so with my retro Manchester City home shirt on, and with the weather being lovely and sunny, thought it'd be good to go. In fact even though I got there pretty early the museum was already quite busy, and it was therefore a case of walking around and not getting in the way too much.

The first floor has plenty of football history and memorabilia to keep you occupied - with replica shirts from historic games such as the 1954 World Cup final where West Germany beat Hungary 3-2, and lots of trophies such as the Premier League, FA Cup, Football League Championship and even obscure trophies played for during the 1980s such as the Zenith Data Systems Cup! There were also some memorablia from FA Cup finals including the neck brace that Bert Trautmann had to wear after breaking his beck in the 1956 FA Cup final, along with shirts worn by teams etc that really did tell their own story.

The second floor was a bit more interactive, and had this whole scheme called Football Plus where you paid for credits at the museum entrance, and then you used those credits for various attractions, such as on this floor the penalty shoot out and stuff like that. I guess it's a good way to make the money as no doubt kids with parents will want to try everything out and end up paying for the museum's upkeep that way. There was also an exhibit of UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final winners shirts (including Man City's from 1970) as well as the trophy itself, on loan from UEFA.

The third floor has the temporary exhibits with some African art based on football featuring and the pictures of colours and lines describing attributes of famous African footballers drawn by Ghanian artist Atti Kwame were inspiring and intriguing at the same time. Having an attribute of survivor for Bolton player Fabrice Muamba seemed seriously appropriate somehow, and the purple and black main colours in Didier Drogba seemed somewhat settled and yet and inspiring.

At the far end of the floor was a set of photographs of fans at football grounds up and down the country, and these were really good, capturing the spirit and essence of football. Stuart Roy Clarke's "The Homes of Football" was brilliant, even having some crowd shots from the now infamous Man City v QPR game a couple of months ago, as well as people selling the pies and teas, the old stadia such as Roker Park in Sunderland, and lots of atmospheric shots of the game we love. Well worth visiting just to see that in my view.

I headed home later on and watched the women's tennis final from Wimbledon. The rain did come down and so delay things after the first set was rapidly won by Serena Williams 6-1, and so it was waiting for that all to stop. The Love In My Heart came over when it was one set all and we watched the final set together and saw Serena win the title pretty well it has to be said - and later on in the day she'd win the women's doubles with her sister Venus - two wins in one day can't be bad.

We went over to Mum's later on as she had organised a barbecue and get together for the family. There was lots of nice food on, and we'd brought some wine and real ale as well as The Love making one of her gorgeous lemon cheesecakes (believe me that was so worth it!) and it was therefore a nice evening in the relatively nice and mild weather. I ended up building Lego houses with my niece and helping her out to get the most out of the bricks in the box in the play shed, so that was also nice to spend some quality time there.

The evening went by rather quickly all told and it was good to spend some quality time with the family as well - the burgers were spot on, as were the sausages, and of course the cheesecake (would have been rude not to have that). The fursty ferret ale I bought was on top form when I had that in the evening, and seeing The Love looking so lovely in her blue dress really did bring home how lucky I am really - and how much my life has changed these last four years.

Tune of the day is "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, as I'd been watching in the morning the classic albums programme I'd recorded from BBC Four the previous evening which was about the making of the album. It showed how much the band were together as a unit and even now when you hear the riff being played it still brings a tingle to the spine - a song that really did help define metal, as did the album of the same title as a whole. It's well worth getting if you've not done so already.

Friday 6th July - Come Rain Or Shine Or Rain

It was another busy day and another day of avoiding the incessant rain that was falling today. In Manchester though to be fair the drainage is pretty good and it at least means that no matter how heavy it appears to be, the city appears to mostly cope with it pretty well. I think a lot of that is down to some genius engineering that ensures that most of the drains are massively deep and all tend to be way below ground level and then some, thus ensuring that everything goes away - and when the sun does come out, any trace of rain does vanish pretty quickly it has to be said.

We had a team meeting for our platform team today and on the whole that went pretty well. It was good to be able to see some of the other people on other campus teams and share the whole experience of how Windows 7 was going on in terms of staff rollout as well as what we could do to get the take up in numbers increased. We do know though that replacement kit will be coming soon and that's possibly going to accelerate what happens in terms of replacements, so we'll see.

Back at work during the afternoon I had fun and games with Bizagi Process Modeler. The software itself when it runs appears to be fine, but attempting a silent install is anything but. As is the norm with InstallShield installers, you record the install with the /r switch, and this sets up a setup.iss file for silent installation. You then call the installer to install silently, remembering to place a setup log file on the local machine with the /f2 switch, and all is well on 32-bit Windows 7. However on 64-bit, you always get Installshield error -3 which basically says that the setup.iss has some missing information. Even recording the install on 64-bit and trying that didn't work. It's not the nicest installer anyway so I've posted to their forums to see if they know what the issue is and how to sort it, as I'm at a loss really.

I waited for the rain to stop once I got home from work before heading to do the shopping at Tesco for the week. This did allow me to watch the tennis at Wimbledon which meant I could see if Andy Murray could beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and get to the final against Roger Federer. Murray looked pretty good and was winning some crucial points, and at the end he hit a good return which he thought was in, but was called out. He challenged the call and Murray was right - it was in - and so that proved to be the winning point and the first British player to get to the men's singles finals for absolutely ages.

Tune of the day seems pretty apt considering the weather at the moment and the week I've had - "Only Happy When It Rains" by Garbage. Seeing them live made me realise how excellent their debut eponymous album actually is, and it even made me head back and see the old performances off TFI Friday where they used to be on pretty regularly. And for the record: yes, like most red-blooded males in their early twenties, I did find Shirley Manson pretty attractive!

Thursday 5th July - Wimbledon Here I Come

Well it was a day and a half today. I spent most of the morning with one of our staff from the Helpline as they wanted to learn a fair bit about Macs, and so it was down to me to basically go through some of the most common queries that we get with him. It was good actually to put a face to the name as well so that was good. I explained a fair few things and also demonstrated some others as well - such as how to ensure the correct network settings are set, where to find the applications, how to connect the Mac to a projector etc, and it was all good stuff on the whole.

One of our team had their birthday today, which was nice - she very kindly had brought in some little flapjack bites and other little treats which was really lovely. I had one with a coffee mid-morning and then saved myself for one mid-afternoon, and why not? It was also nice too to have a bit of lunch out, several of us went to Odder on Oxford Road, and they still do the pizza deal for certain pizzas at lunch time - either £3.99 on its own or £4.99 with a selected beer (normally Carlsberg, but hey ho). I had the ham and mushroom one which was rather plentiful with the ham, and beautifully crispy too. Yaay.

During the afternoon I had to check out a network socket in one of our buildings, and the network cab is actually in the basement, and not at ground level, so knowing where it is and how get to it certainly was very useful. As it turned out the socket in question was already patched in and so live and good to go, so it was then a case of taking over one of the new IP phones, putting it in and we're all good to go for the staff member concerned. That was rather pleasing all round really.

I got home later on and after having some food for tea and also having a couple of rounds of frisbee golf on Wii Sports Resort, where I actually had beaten my previous best for 18 holes and achieved a meritable 15 under par, I was checking out if any extra tickets had been added for the 2012 Olympics. To my surprise, there seemed to be tickets available at Wimbledon for the Monday 30th July, which would tie in very nicely indeed with the other things I'm going to around that time. Anyway, I put one ticket in the basket (having checked with The Love In My Heart, she can't get that day off, boo!) and so waited to see if it went to the payment page...

... and it did! Woo! So one payment later and that's me heading to Centre Court, Wimbledon, for the Olympic Tennis tournament. I'll be seeing some second round action and no doubt if the organisers have any sense that they might put some British people on if they qualify. It's the first to two sets for the men and women, so that should result in shorter matches and more being played. And of course if it does wee it down, at least the roof can come on and we still get some play. I had to get the category A ticket, but this does at least mean that I get a good view as well. So to celebrate, "Light and Tuneful" by Keith Mansfield, the opening titles the BBC use for the tennis at Wimbledon, is tune of the day - and why the hell not?

Wednesday 4th July - Avoiding The Rain

It was all go today as I spent most of the day out on jobs and trying to avoid the rain in between doing them. However, it was what I had to first thing that proved to be rather intriguing. As part of our move to IP telephony, we had to check out all the lifts in the campus that come under our IT remit, and see how the telephones inside the lifts were connected to the lift controllers, and then if there was power in the lift control room for a power socket to connect to an analogue to digital converter box, and so plug the phone into that and then the socket be changed for a normal network one instead of a phone one.

Of course as some of the buildings were older than others, getting to the lift controllers wasn't the easiest thing ever. In one of the older buildings, the lift dates back from 1935 and it's one of those lifts where you have to pull closed the outside door then the inside mesh door to be able to go up in it. It still works flawlessly though and so that was fine - but the controller for the lift is in the roof - so you have to enter the roof via a loft ladder that pulls out from a ceiling, then take the ladder up, manouevre yourself at the top, and then it's a walk over to where the controller is. It's not the easiest place to get to, let's put it like that!

It was a different insight into how the buildings work though and certainly when I had to go on to the flat roof of the building I'm currently in to get to the lift controller there, it was the easiest way to see lots of the view of the city from there - and quite a nice view. Of course you wouldn't normally be up there unless you were accompanied by the right people, but still it was good to see what the view was like, and also how much you have to effectively get the building plans right so that everything that's integrated works as it should.

Later on after I got home The Love In My Heart came over, and it was lovely to see her and give her a massive hug (because yes, I do miss her, and yes, it's so nice to have a cuddle, so there) and we headed out to Chorlton Water Park for a nice leisurely walk around the lake and following the River Mersey for a little while too. We weren't sure where we'd end up if we kept following the river, so we headed back around the lake and it was just nice to catch up and chat. In fact we got back to The Love's car and just as we did so, the heavens opened and it started weeing it down. Phew! Dodged the rain again then!

We got back to mine and I made us some nice spaghetti with meatballs which went down a treat for The Love, and some garlic bread too. I timed it reasonably well so she didn't miss the soaps too much that were on tonight, and then we settled in on Channel 4 +1 to watch the Three Go Mad River Cottage thing. I must admit that having both Philip Glenister and the rather lovely Keeley Hawes was like almost being back in Ashes to Ashes, and when Philip caught the fish I thought for a split second he was going to come across like The Gene Genie, which would have been ace.

Still, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's gardener colleagues had a nice surprise as he was helping one of his idols Felicity Kendal forage for nettles for the nettle soup that they were making. As you can well imagine for anyone of a certain age range, he had to charm Felicity in some way but it was rather sweet and you couldn't help but smile. Awww. It was all good fun and the meal that the three celebrities cooked at the end looked pretty good - maybe apart from the ink from the cuttlefish! Tune of the day has to be something from the series "Ashes to Ashes" because of the obvious Keeley Hawes and Philip Glenister connection, so the track by David Bowie is the weapon of choice. And why not?

Tuesday 3rd July - Garbage, Anything But

After another long day with plenty of work on a Mac for most of the day, it was nice to wind down a little bit tonight and head out with my friend to Manchester Academy 1 to see Garbage. I'd had many happy memories of the band when they were first around: I remember being with a friend of mine in the old Virgin store in Market Street at the time they had a competition to win a 6 x 7" singles box set of their first album (one track per side) and I was the one to get the correct answer and win it.

I also remember too seeing them back in 1996 at Manchester Apollo with Bis supporting. Bis that night were truly awful and possibly one of the worst support shows I'd ever seen, unfortunately, and at their time their "Candy Pop" single was going massive, but live they just didn't cut it. At all. Garbage of course put on an excellent show and it was well worth the wait, even if the tickets were upstairs in the seats at the time I didn't mind - it was worth the effort to go and see them.

Fast forward to 2012 then and a lot has changed: the band after a long break have released a new album "Not Your Kind of People", which is only their fifth studio release, and a limited UK tour to go with the album. Knowing of course that it might not happen again, my friend and I had snagged tickets and so we were off in the pouring rain, but knowing that due to the humid weather that it might be a bit warm inside, so it didn't matter if I ended up getting a little wet as we left my friend's car and headed over to the Academy.

It was just the right atmosphere as it turned out - the venue was pretty full but not over full (it hadn't sold out which was a bit of a surprise) and the Academy bosses had moved the merch stall to the back of the venue, back centre, so a bit easier for people to see it instead of getting in the way of one of the main exit doors on the way out - perfect sense, that. Mind you, with t-shirts at a mind boggling £20 it does make me wonder how bands are actually managing to sell any merchandise whatsoever.

First up were the support band The Jezabels, whom certainly divided opinion between my friend and I. He didn't like them too much whereas for me they were quite dark and brooding in places (they were all pretty much dressed in black which made them semi goth-like if you will) - and in a way that brooding feel reminded me in parts of those other Australians Howling Bells. I think that the sound mixing in Academy 1 didn't help them come across as well as it might have done though, bit of a shame that - the volume needed tweaking to sound less noisy..

Gradually it warmed up somewhat in the venue (and I'm not kidding, it was humid in there) and on came Garbage to rapturous applause - and well deserved. For the next hour and three quarters they played a blinding set, and it was full of great songs, not just off the new album. For a start, opening with "Supervixen" from their self-titled debut album was a smart move, as it got the crowd going straight away, with "Queer" not following long after either.

The new album certainly sounded good judging by the live tracks, with "Not Your Kind Of People" the title track coming across really well, full of control and rocking at the same time and in the right place. When you consider that Duke Eriksson is over 60 now, Butch Vig's in his mid fifties etc, they were still rocking massively and with Shirley Manson up front looking very much the dominatrix in parts, but certainly in the mood to kick some proverbial backside, all was very well indeed. Of the new album tracks, I also very much enjoyed "Battle In Me" which really sounded powerful, and "Control" which apparently is going to be the new single in the US, but not over here, go figure.

Of course the older tracks from their first two albums were certainly met with a very warm reception, with the likes of "The Only Trick Is To Keep Breathing", "Special" and especially "I Think I'm Paranoid" which really did rock the place, getting everyone in the mood. However the first album stuff sounded spot on even more so and "Vow" was just wonderful - spot on playing and with good sound, and a perfect vocal from Shirley, so tune of the day was an easy decision. Oh, and we got "Only Happy When It Rains" as the last song - and perfect all things considered as it was weeing it down outside when we left the venue. Hurrah for that and well done Garbage - and you could tell they felt the Mancunian love!

Monday 2nd July - Blackberry Bold Bravado

It was a pretty busy day after having had a leisurely weekend relaxing, and it was straight into getting things done for everyone. I had plenty of time to test out an issue I had with a Blackberry where the subfolders of the inbox weren't synching, and I found the solution out. It transpires that by default the Blackberry will only sync down your main Inbox and Sent folders, and so if like me you have mail filtering rules where you filter the email to your folders straight away, then you don't ever see them on the device. The solution was to enable folder redirection and pick the folders as well as the inbox that I wanted synching to the device. It was a case of then ticking the folders the user wanted, and hey ho, all done from that point on, so that was good. Felt rather pleased with myself that I found this out.

It does make me wonder though how limited the device is for email as a client. iPhones and my Android phone certainly have no problem doing a proper push down of any subfolders, and indeed on my Android's email client you just scroll along to the folders at the very top, then you can just view the one you want at the time, and with the iPhone it's just as slick and workable. It does also question the decision why so many corporate companies decide to use Blackberries all the time - granted they do have a working little keyboard on most models (unless it's touchscreen of course) and there is the ubiquitous Blackberry Messenger, but still.

I also had my professional development review (PDR) today and that went pretty well. I do think it's hard to big yourself up over the course of what you've done over the year, and as someone who doesn't naturally like to take all the praise it's something that I had to kind of push myself to do (for once). But when I look back, there's actually lots that I have done, so that's all good. There's still plenty to do over the course of the next year or so, but that's to be expected and something that I know I can manage pretty well over the course of time. It was working out a suitable plan, and that wasn't easy!

Later on when I got back home I dug out my old PC tower and started work on getting it all looking shipshape, ensuring everything worked properly. The long term plan is to maybe sell it as a working unit, and it does work pretty well. I even tried an install of Ubuntu 10.04 on it tonight, as I knew that 12.04 might be pushing the hardware a little bit. To my joy it installed perfectly, all the hardware didn't have any issues whatsoever, and it's actually pretty quick for doing most tasks. Of course there's nothing stopping you putting Windows on too if you have a licence, but at least this way it actually is usable out of the box - food for thought there.

Tune of the day in the meantime is a track from the new Amy Macdonald album - it's growing on me with every listen and hard to believe it's already her third album. "The Days of Being Young and Free" has a pulsing bass line at the start which underpins the track wonderfully well, and gradually builds into a rousing anthemic chorus later on, and just the sort of song that you could listen to in the Summer (if it ever comes!) with the windows wound down rather well. Yaay for happy tunes sometimes.

Sunday 1st July - Feeling Arti(san)

It was a leisurely Sunday for myself and The Love In My Heart today, and despite the rain during the morning, we thought it'd be nice to head out and have a nice stroll around the Artisan Market in the Castlefield area of central Manchester. We'd been there before (ironically when it was peeing it down that day) and it looked pretty nice, and so thought it'd make a good afternoon of it. The Love even managed to find a parking space that was free during the Sunday, so that was an added bonus. It wasn't a very far walk over the bridge over the canal and to where the Artisan Market was held.

We spent a fair bit of time looking at all the stalls, and most of them were rather lovely, having gorgeous little arts and crafts, hand made cards, one stall with lovely cotton eye masks, aprons and the like, and one which had mugs with various bits of Manchester on each of the mugs - so I could even get one for the area of Manchester which I live in! Those were the handiwork of Design Sixty4, which was nice to look at, with bold bright colours too.

One of the other stalls had a good and clever idea - you could have your hair done in the style of the 1930s/1940s retro look, and then have a photo session by a photographer with yourselves! A good idea that - and it turns out that Gemma the photographer also does wedding photography as well. She had a Nikon D7000 with her - a good camera of choice, that! You can see her work at 2 Ducks Galleries, and Carmen's hairdressing a Hair by Carmen - well worth checking out, especially for the ladies!

After a leisurely stroll around and indeed a coffee in Dukes 92, we decided it'd be nice to head to Chorlton as well so we found a spot close to Beech Road and then had a coffee in On The Corner whilst I perused the vinyl in there, which was a lovely thing to do. We then went along Beech Road and in some of the shops, spending some time in Loop admiring the cards and the little gift ideas which were all gorgeous before ending up in the Horse and Jockey where a well earned drink was to be had, and the sun was even attempting to make a comeback as we sat outside so that was good.

Tune of the day in the meantime is "Suddenly I See" by KT Tunstall which was providing the background music whilst we were relaxed in Dukes 92 having a drink (coffee for me I should add!) earlier in the afternoon. It was nice to look outside, admire the view and generally relax a heck of a lot, and that was just the thing after a busy and mad week at work. Definitely something we should do more of I think and it's always nice to spend the time with The Love - she's just... lovely!!